This talk is from the ‘Development for Species: Animals in
society, animals as society’ conference by The Alfred Deakin Institute for
Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University, and the ‘Sociology &
Animals’ Thematic Group of TASA. This was a two-day symposium held at Deakin
University, Melbourne City campus, September 18-19, 2017. For more information
about the conference, see here.
You can listen to other talks from this conference here.
Jess Ison (LaTrobe
University)- Prisons, animal abuse registries, and animal liberation: A
critique of punitive measures
“Jockey on fishing trip accused of animal cruelty” was the
title of an article that appeared in the Australian news in 2017. The jockey in
question had filmed himself stabbing a stingray multiple times before throwing
the thrashing animal back in to the water. This was met with immediate calls
for punitive measures. This case reflects much of the argument I will make in
this paper. Firstly, a jockey rides horses for a living, horses who have been
bred and beaten for racing. Only a small percentage of them will ever see a
track and most will be killed once they are no longer useful to the industry.
Secondly, fishing is the act of killing marine animals. How can a man who whips
horses for a living and spends his recreation time killing fish be accused of
animal cruelty only when stabbing a stingray?
In this paper, I intend to challenge the increased use of
the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC) in response to alleged animal abuse. One of
the key issues in this paper will be asking what, in fact, even constitutes animal
abuse? Often the perpetrator in these cases is someone who has harmed a dog, or
stingray, and yet we continue to see the rise in numbers of so-called “farm
animals” killed for food each year. I will argue that this stark contrast in
fact reinforces the PIC and human supremacy over animals.
Alongside this reinforcement of the PIC through calls for
harsher penalties, there have been efforts to institute an animal abuse
registry in many parts of the world. Through an analysis of the issues
resulting from child sex offender registries, I will argue that animal abuse
registries will only result in further harassment of those already targeted by
the PIC, on the grounds of race and class, whilst ignoring those who kill
animals en masse for human consumption.
Overall, this paper will argue that criminalising individual
animal abuse does not contribute to ending animal exploitation, and perhaps
even reinforces the use of cages and chains that are one of the keys means of
abusing animals in industrial farming. I will argue that animal liberation
should support prison abolition, not reinforce the PIC.